(PlayStation Network)

Proteus (PlayStation Network)

Game Review

Proteus Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Greg Giddens

Kaleidoscope eyes

On our journey through Proteus, we witnessed history, mythology, nature, industry, death, ascension, and enlightenment. We experienced all of these things, but there's a chance that you may not, because part of the appeal of the release is that it's entirely subjective. As such, this is one of the most thought-provoking titles on the market, and its pixel aesthetic, solid block pastel colours, and its dreamy music only serve to facilitate that.

This game is everything that you want to experience and yet virtually devoid of experience at the same time. Its only constants are the visuals and sound, with bright colours depicting a mysterious island filled with pixel flora and fauna, and audio that adapts depending on the time of day, season, weather, and what you're looking at. These are the only guarantees during a playthrough, as the aforementioned discoveries are dependent on your exploration, imagination, and interpretation.

Each time that you play the campaign, you'll emerge from the ocean on a randomly generated island. The rudimentary, blocky pixel constructs – which you observe from a first-person perspective – represent vegetation, animals, graves, cabins, ominous towers, and totems, but their form is ambiguous enough to require a little imagination from you. You don't interact with these elements, but the island reacts to you. Animals will scurry, jump, and fly away as you approach. Plants will shrink back into their buds. The wind will blow hard and shake leaves from their trees. The rain will envelop you, its pitter-patter muffling the music. The world is alive, despite its aesthetic.

As you examine each element of the landscape, you'll notice that the music changes as you encounter new things and as the island goes about its natural cycle. But if you choose to sit with a tap of the X button then you can simply observe the scenery, watching wondrous light shows in the sky, the stars peaking out as the sun sets, with the clouds swimming overhead. You can watch curious animals peaking from behind trees, and smile as frogs leap nearby and generate a musical tone each time they pass by.

Hold down the circle button and you'll gradually close your eyes and return to the title screen, where you can choose to jump back into the game and experience a new island. The cabin, the totems, and the other landmarks will still be present, but in different locations. Eventually you'll notice shimmering lights in the woods. Follow them and find their source and you'll be thrust through time to the next season. The game always starts in spring, and if you continue to explore, you'll soon reach winter and the title's "conclusion".

Proteus is about exploration. Proteus is about discovery. Proteus is about sounds. But primarily Proteus is about you. In essence, it's like going for a spiritual walk in a wonderful world.

In terms of functionality, the PlayStation Vita version can obtain your location in order to generate a custom island, while the PlayStation 3 release performs a similar trick using the system's date and time. Anyone playing in the exact same location or at an identical time can experience the same island, providing a clever sense of shared experience without actual multiplayer. On the handheld, you can also use the gyro sensor to act as your viewpoint, and both versions sport a postcard feature, which allows you to take a screenshot that's saved to your system and allows you to re-enter the world at an identical moment whenever you choose. Think of it like storing memories.

Conclusion

Proteus is a unique exploration title that demands very little skill but a great deal of imagination. It's both lively and lifeless at the same time, and its appeal will be very much determined by your mood. Its lack of structure and limited interactivity will undoubtedly deter some types of players – but the title's beautifully crafted and bizarrely empowering all the same. It all depends on whether you're open to the idea of something new.

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User Comments (11)

get2sammybAdmin

#1

get2sammyb said:

Just bought my copy, Greg. This is a great review of a no doubt difficult to describe game. I can't wait to dive in. :)

jgrangervikings1

#5

jgrangervikings1 said:

So, it's a more retro-looking version of Flower with randomly generated locations and little-to-no objective? And it's cross-buy, so I have the opportunity to do little-to-nothing when I'm both home and away. Oh boy!

Sorry, I'm in a really snarky mood. It does sound interesting. Right now there are so many games I want, though, that it makes this game a tough sell. Hmm. It's great to have more content for Vita, so definitely a welcome addition. I hope Proteus finds an audience that will embrace it, and I hope the audience will search out and find this title.

Munkyknuts

#6

Munkyknuts said:

I like the gentle pace and notion of the game...the exploration and it being open to personal interpretation. I'm less keen on the MineCraft alike retro visuals but I'd definitely give this a try....I like to support games with some brave originality to them.

get2sammybAdmin

#8

get2sammyb said:

@odd69 Hmm, not really. Journey has a much more pre-defined structure, where this is just pure exploration. It's got bags of atmosphere and awesome art, but if you're looking for a "game" in the traditional sense, this isn't one. It's, like @Giddens mentions, more like going for a walk.

eliotgballade

#9

eliotgballade said:

really nice ! trailer and screenshots remind me SO MUCH of another world (out of this world) and that , believe me , is no bad thing .

Slapshot

#11

Slapshot said:

@get2sammyb @odd69 @Giddens Proteus is, quite simply, a collision between art and video games. Journey is a beautiful video game and a fantastic journey, even if it's quite linear and scripted; it's an outstanding artistic experience nonetheless. Journey lands more on the 'interactive art' side of the spectrum.

Proteus, on the other hand, is more akin to being inside a work of art. If you ever visit an authentic art museum, you'll find that many people choose to sit and relinquish themselves into the pieces of art. Why? Doing so can find that there's hidden depths behind the brush strokes; depths, that if explored, shine insight into the mind of the artist.

What is the message that's trying to be relayed in this work of art? Is this piece a mere reflection of self when it was painted? Etcetera. I recently got to see a wonderful arrangement of Max Beckmann's work, that spanned the entire timeline of this famed German painter's life. Letting go and getting involved emotionally in his work in this space allowed me to see his high and lows in life, his interest, the things that he loved and the things that he despised. It's truly a wondrous experience to be captivated by art in this manner, but it's up to the viewer in how it's perceived.

Proteus task you with sitting down and relinquishing yourself in its artistic world. It breaks the traditional video game formatting guidelines and just like sitting in a museum, it's up to you how you perceive it. Proteus is worth more than any review score that could be placed on it. It is a game that will be studied decades from now for being one of the first truly interactive works of art. For those willing to sit down and let go - Proteus is a game that will move and inspire you deeply.

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